Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 403

Issue # 403                                                          Week ending 3rd June 2017

Some Handy Tips on How to Avoid A Morning Headache by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

When that police mugshot of the golfer Tiger Woods appeared the other day, we all thought: “Oh-oh.” You would think he’d been on one of these famous Stornoway pub crawls back in the 1980s when you took in all the watering holes including the Caledonian Hotel, now shut, and the Caberfeidh Hotel, now an altogether drier and more upmarket joint. Woods looked bedraggled as if the pub crawl had ended in a house in Manor Park. That’s neat, that’s neat, that’s neat, that’s neat, how was he still on his tiger feet? Sorry, Mud. I had to play around with those lyrics.

Forgive me and most of the world, Tiger, if you are reading this, for thinking you were on the hooch. We too have been that unshaven and had bleary eyes and the bacon rolls in Manor Park did not do much to improve our looks either. Now we hear that you were not on the bevvy after all. Eh? You claim to have been on “medication”. Ah, you mean like those magic mushrooms you used to be able to pick up in the castle grounds in Stornoway? Listen man, they’re not good for your insides. Get back on the rum and coke, cove.

No, it was proper medicine. The problem, he says, was that he had taken more than one type of medicine and they had reacted and sort of put him a bit droll. The last time I saw a reaction like that was in the Clachan Bar, also no longer with us, when a cove from the west side of the island had a headache. Another customer gave him some soluble aspirin. Rather than stir the Disprin into a glass of water, he decided to plop it into a glass of his favourite flavour of whisky, stand back and watch the fizz. When it settled, he knocked it back and soon decided his skull-ache was a bit better so he would have to have another to make sure.

For some reason, he became very sick and never tried the same stunt again. He recovered but I think there have been side effects. From what I hear, he never even tried having another dram again because about that time he met a lassie from Skye, contracted religion and was last heard of taking a Sunday school class in Edinburgh. Why does this sort of thing keep happening? No wonder our pubs are going out of business. So here is a warning - never consume anything that you are given in a pub which is in wee silver foil packets. Aspirin can change your life and put innocent friends out of work.

As if that is not enough, there are all these dire health warnings about our favourite tipples. At the end of a long day putting the world to rights, I always enjoyed a wee glass of red wine. Then all these medical experts began to say that wine is the worst of all due to the sulphites and jam they are said to put in to hide its awful true flavour. Then they blamed something in red wine with a long name which they say is what causes that hot, dry, head-thump the morning after that makes you feel as if you have been hit a bus. They recommended white wine for that fresh feeling at dawn.

Now American health experts said this week that white vino is actually the worst of all. It gives you a boozer’s red nose. They claim it is full of things linked with skin cancer, makes you depressed and, wait for it, is full of sugar and makes you pile on the pounds much more than red wine, rum, gin, or even uisge beatha. I believe it. Mrs X likes white wine and we are going to a 1970s themed night soon. She has abandoned the idea of going as Suzi Quatro. Put it this way, no one could afford the amount of leather it would take to make an outfit for her.

My friend Chirstag in Inverness loves white wine. Well, she’s actually a cousin - a very distant cousin and not many keep track after second or third cousin anyway. What’s the point of telling anyone that their great, great grandfathers and yours were first cousins? Anyway, it’s all very sad. Chirstag got caught last week stealing a joint of lamb from the supermarket. Realising she hadn’t gone near the checkout, the manager ran after her as she was heading out the door and shouted to her: “What are you doing with that lamb?” Chirstag replied: “Well, I thought new potatoes, peas and gravy would be nice.”

Space Industry Developments in Sutherland Becoming More Realistic
Gail Ross, MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, has today given her support for possible developments for the space industry in Sutherland. Speaking after the Scottish Space Industry reception, held in the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation on Tuesday, which included addresses by the Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Paul Wheelhouse MSP and the Scottish Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Shelia Rowan, Gail said: “The space industry could be a massive boost to the economy of the north, Sutherland in particular. Realistic proposals are already being drawn up for developments on the north coast, which could potentially bring hundreds of jobs to the area. I am very pleased to see the support that Highlands and Islands Enterprise have given to the proposed development in Sutherland and I sincerely hope that other agencies will be actively involved in the formation of any development here. Projects like this are vital for our rural communities, in order to become a thriving and successful economy. I am encouraged that the companies involved in the development process are also paying close attention to the unique and beautiful environment in Sutherland. After the General Election, it is hoped that the UK Westminster Government will be amending the regulations on space as soon as possible, which would mean that developments could become a reality very soon.”

Sizzling Start for Scottish Series
The heat was on as the 43rd Scottish Series got underway in Tarbert.  Sponsored by Silvers Marine for the third year, the famous regatta on the waters of Loch Fyne started got going in searing temperatures on Friday May 26.  The mercury may have hit 30 degrees in Tarbert, but competition on the water was even hotter.  There was plenty of action in the Silvers Fleet and the Crewsaver Fleet. These results are almost certainly subject to protest as it was very competitive in most classes, no more so than in IRC 2 the RC35 class where some bumps occurred during mark roundings.  Silvers Marine Scottish Series is also incorporating the Spinlock IRC Scottish Championship so there is plenty to race for.  The day’s racing was spectacular with the most incredible splash of colour across Loch Fyne and the atmosphere was electric on and off the water.  Everything points to a fantastic few days of racing ahead for the event, which runs between Friday May 26 and Monday May 29.  And there is plenty going on for landlubbers to enjoy shoreside in Tarbert.

Bamburgh Castle in Competition to Be Named UK’s Best

Bamburgh Castle is in the running to be crowned the nation’s best – but it needs votes to take the title.  The iconic castle is one of 12 shortlisted by in a contest to find the best castle to visit across the UK.  Others in the list are Berkeley; Colchester; Dunnottar; Durham; Edinburgh; Lincoln; Ludlow; Raby; Skipton; Stirling; and Windsor.The website’s description of Bamurgh Castle is: ‘This iconic northern castle rightly claims its title of the King of Castles. Sitting atop a rocky outcrop, it reigns over coast and countryside. ‘Once the capital of Northumbria, it was home to Anglo-Saxon royalty before playing a pivotal role in the Wars of the Roses.  ‘Rebuilt and repurposed as school, hospital and the world’s first coastguard station. Now, it welcomes over 150,000 visitors a year who come to admire both the building and its spectacular views.’ Reflecting on making the shortlist, Chris Calvert, the castle’s director, said: “To make the shortlist when there are so many fantastic castles in the UK is great. I hope with our worldwide fan base we can get a great result.”

Call Made for Investment At Berwick Academy

A campaign for investment at Berwick Academy to stop the drift of pupils to Eyemouth and Alnwick has been launched.  Lib Dem candidate Julie Pörksen has called on Northumberland County Council and the Department for Education to build a new school.  She said: “Berwick Academy is losing pupils to Eyemouth in the north and Alnwick in the south, where students and staff are now working in modern buildings with more resources.  Building a better Berwick is about securing the investment we need in the town for our children’s futures. We are calling on Northumberland County Council and the Department for Education to invest in Berwick Academy and build a new school fit to provide the 21st century education our young people across Berwick deserve.  After a year working in the classroom as a trainee teacher I know first-hand about the pressure school budgets are under. The national funding formula is supposed to be fairer but schools in the Berwick partnership will be worse off.  I want every child in Berwick to have a good education, in a school where they feel safe, valued and respected and where they are encouraged to be the best they can be. But unless we fight back against these cuts we will be asking the impossible of our schools. Fighting back against the cuts is just the start. Our schools have been struggling for a long time and some now need substantial repairs.  Berwick’s children deserve better and I will keep fighting for our next generation.”  According to, Berwick Academy is set to lose nearly £1/4 million from its annual budget with the middle schools in Berwick and Tweedmouth losing almost £270,000 between them. This is the equivalent cost of around 13 teachers. Once the impact on the first schools is taken into account, the equivalent cost is over 20 teachers.  Academy head teacher Alexis Widdowson said: “Berwick Academy welcomes any investment in to schools in the currently challenging financial environment. A shiny new school would be wonderful. Until this is a real prospect, we continue to do everything we can to maintain and improve our existing site.  The school has managed in a context of economic constraint for a number of years.  We proactively bid for school improvement grants every year.  We also use our statutory delegated capital funds well and have gradually upgraded IT facilities, each year, since 2012. Annual school grants are a concern, but we have anticipated annual budget reductions, and we have been able to manage the impact through careful forward planning. However, the formula used to calculate grant income heavily favours larger schools, and we remain frustrated that because of our size we cannot do everything that we would like to, in order to guarantee a first class education for our students.

Armed Police in Perth Respond to 'Critical' Threat After Manchester Attack

Armed police officers were carrying out patrols in Perth this week following the horrific terrorist attack in Manchester.  They are set to become a common sight after Police Scotland confirmed it had deployed more armed officers across the country for the “foreseeable future” with the terror threat level in the UK now raised to ‘critical’.  Officers equipped with guns mingled with shoppers in Perth city centre and commuters at Perth Railway Station on Wednesday in the increased show of force and resilience.  Chief Constable Phil Gormley said: “My thoughts and those of everyone at Police Scotland continue to be with those who have lost loved ones or who were injured in the attack in Manchester. With the threat level now at critical, we have now established a multi-agency co-ordination centre to lead the response across the country along with key partners.  Police Scotland will be increasing our operations to protect the people of Scotland, our businesses and public places. This may include a range of options aimed at increasing security at these sites, reassuring residents, businesses, workers and visitors so they can go about their daily lives as normally as possible. We are reviewing all significant events taking place within the next 14 days and will increase the security footprint around those events where it is deemed appropriate. However, there is no intelligence to suggest there is any specific threat to Scotland but I would ask the public to remain alert and report anything suspicious.”

Well-known Wick Photographer Adds Voice to Social History Project
Voices of well-known Wick characters are to be recorded for posterity as part of a venture to compile an audio database of the town’s social history.  Wick Voices is a project that conducts interviews with townspeople from all walks of life about their memories and stories with their musings and reminiscences saved forever in digital form.  The initiative was launched by Wick Society last year and has generated a lot of interest across the county with volunteers having already conducted about 50 interviews.  The recordings are edited and uploaded to Wick Society’s website, allowing existing and future generations to hear about many aspects of local life, past and present, as told by those who experienced it.  They will also be kept on a database in Wick Heritage Museum, which is run by Wick Society. Subjects covered so far have ranged from schooldays to workplaces and from wartime memories to sport and leisure. Some recordings recall well-known Wick characters and a few self-penned poems have been recorded too.  Wick Society chairman Ian Leith said it has received a very encouraging response to their interviews.  “There has been over 50 interviews which have been downloaded on to the website since it launched,” he said.  “The website has been a huge success and we can judge it by the hits each of the interviews get. Mr Leith adds: “The great thing about it is the number of different people who have been involved in the project. These are memories that are in danger of getting lost so it is important that they are saved.” Presentations have been given by Wick Voices at the town’s Laurandy day care centre; Caithness U3A (the local branch of the University of the Third Age movement); Pulteney House; and St Fergus Church Guild. Pictures from the Johnston Collection accompany the recordings. More recordings to be added in the near future will cover infamous shipwrecks of the north coast, the history of Whaligoe Steps and local recollections about when the National Health Service was set up in 1948.

'Spanish Plume' Sends Far North Temperatures Soaring

The weather is shaping up superbly for a memorable day of potentially record-breaking heat in Wick and a scorcher for the time of year elsewhere in Caithness and Sutherland. That's according to local weather watcher Keith Banks who says a high of 24C (75.2) is likely for Thurso while favoured inland locations such as Kinbrace and Altnaharra could see temperatures rocket to 26-28C.  The highest air temperature recorded in Wick in the series starting from 1910 is 22C (71.6F), recorded on May 30, 1982.  Mr Banks said: "I believe there is a very real prospect the record for highest air temperature for Wick could be eclipsed today. Temperatures in the burgh before 8.30am reached 19C (66.2F) and I'd be very surprised and disappointed if we don't make 21.1C (70F). The glorious weather we are experiencing has been facilitated by the presence of an anticyclone, presently centred over the southern north, and low pressure to the west and south-west of the UK. This optimal pattern for warmth has been created by a southerly airstream covering Scotland with the air today arriving from southern Europe and the Mediterranean. Meteorologists often refer to such conditions as a Spanish plume."

Peatland Restoration Wins £26,000 Funding Boost

A peatland restoration project in the far north of Scotland is among a group of international initiatives selected to receive funding from the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA).  The scheme, run by RSPB Scotland, will receive nearly £26,000 for work to revitalise damaged peat bogs in Sutherland’s globally important Flow Country.  It is one of six projects to receive an award after winning votes from the public and EOCA members. The grant will allow nearly four hectares of forestry plantation to be removed and the ground restored to blanket bog.  Healthy peatlands are important stores of climate-warming carbon, but when damaged can actually release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.  Peat soils in Scotland contain almost 25 times as much carbon as all other plant life in the UK.  The carbon stored in peat and peaty soil here is equivalent to more than 180 years of greenhouse gas emissions from Scotland at the country’s current rates. Peatlands are also vital wildlife habitat, supporting moorland birds and plants.  The bogs, which take thousands of years to form, also help prevent flooding and improve water quality by filtering out pollutants. Blanket bog found in the Flow Country is the best example of its type in the world and holds about 400 million tonnes of carbon – double the amount of all the UK’s forests put together. Non-native sitka spruce and lodgepole pine trees were planted around 30 years ago on peatlands in the Dyke plantation, near Forsinard. The trees have caused significant damage to the bog.  Restoring the site will provide habitat for a wide array of wildlife and plants, including hen harriers and insectivorous sundews.  It will also play a crucial role in tackling climate change.  Catherine Savidge, general manager of the EOCA, said: “The peat bog of the Flow Country is internationally important for wildlife and for its role as a carbon store. EOCA is delighted to be able to fund the work of RSPB Scotland to conserve this special wild space.  It fits perfectly with EOCA’s criteria of funding projects that conserve threatened habitats and which have a link to outdoor enthusiasts, who can enjoy the wildlife and birdlife of the Flow Country.”  George Campbell, of RSPB Scotland, added: “The Flow Country is of European significance and we are delighted that EOCA members have recognised this and made this funding available.”

Exploring Precious Archive Record At Stornoway Conference

Throughout the Western Isles, local history societies are thriving, so nowhere is more appropriate than Stornoway to host an event showcasing innovative community archive projects from across Scotland.  The conference on June 14 and 15th will take place in the historic Lews Castle, recently restored and home to Scotland’s first Gaelic-led museum and Tasglann nan Eilean (Hebridean Archive).  Lucy Casot, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Scotland, said: “The Heritage Lottery Fund is delighted to support a conference that brings together so many excellent examples of communities engaging directly with their heritage.  The conference also showcases the impact of HLF investment in places and people – both Lews Castle and the achievements of Skills for the Future programme.  The conference marks the culmination of the three-year, Scottish Council on Archives’ Opening Up Scotland’s Archives project.  Supported by the HLF Skills for the Future programme, this traineeship scheme has sought to improve skills and develop the Scottish archives sector. Many of the eighteen traineeships over the past three years have focussed on engagement and outreach, and connecting communities to their heritage through archival collections.  The project has been a great success, and it is fitting that we will hear from both a current trainee, Shona MacLellan, based at Tasglann nan Eilean, and a former trainee, Naomi Harvey, now part of the Scotland’s Sounds oral history project at the National Library of Scotland.  The National Galleries of Scotland’s own Skills for the Future trainees will also be taking part. Irene O’Brien, Chair of the Scottish Council on Archives, said: “Community Archives are an important part of the incredibly diverse record of Scotland’s documented national memory. This event will be a great opportunity to share ideas and make new connections.”  Speakers will explore community archive projects from the Highlands and Islands to Dumfries and Galloway.  Through a range of case studies and presentations, conference participants will consider how local history groups and conventional archives can collaborate to achieve common goals.  There will be a range of speakers including representatives of ‘Connecting Scotland’s Sounds’, the National Library of Scotland’s ambitious initiative to establish a National Sound Archive and Annie McSween, Chair of Comunn Eachdraidh Nis, the longest established local history society in the Western Isles.  On the second day, delegates will have the opportunity to visit a number of local groups and landmarks, and see community archives directly.  Keynote speaker John Chambers, Chief Executive of the Archives and Records Association (UK and Ireland), looks forward to promoting continuing and close collaboration between archivists and community archives.  He said: “There are similar challenges faced by archive services and collecting communities.  Our Community Archives and Heritage Group offers an excellent network of support and expertise to progress common goals around increasing community engagement and the diversity of collections.”

Sinking of HMS Vanguard to Be Commemorated on Orkney
Relatives of those who lost their lives when a Royal Navy battleship was blown apart in Orkney are to take part in a special commemoration service on the islands.  Just two of the 845 men on ship, which was anchored at Scapa Flow, survived.  Military experts say the loss of Vanguard, a dreadnought battleship which had been involved in the Battle of Jutland, is one of the most tragic incidents in the history of the Royal Navy.  Hundreds of casualties will be remembered on the centenary of the sinking of the vessel.  Relatives of some of those who died will be among those taking part in the commemorative events on July 9 this year. These will be preceded by a musical concert in St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall on July 8, performed by an ensemble and Corps of Drums from the band of Her Majesty's Royal Marines.  The wreath-laying service involving two modern-day Royal Navy vessels will be held above the wreck of the Vanguard, which lies in 14 metres of water to the north of the island of Flotta.  It will be followed by a service at the Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery in Hoy, where 41 of the ship's crew were buried.  Later in the evening there will also be a watch night service at St Magnus Cathedral at 11pm to mark the moment the ship went down. Brian Archibald, head of marine services, engineering and transportation with Orkney Islands Council, said: "These will be very poignant events.  They offer the opportunity to remember the sinking of HMS Vanguard and the terrible loss of life in Scapa Flow on that July day 100 years ago.  We are very pleased that descendants of men who served aboard the ship will take part in the commemorations.  There will be limited space aboard the vessels involved in the laying of wreaths above the wreck and so priority will be given to relatives who have travelled to Orkney for the occasion.  Many other people from our community will want to play their part in commemorating the loss of the Vanguard and her crew and all are welcome at the services at Lyness Cemetery and back in the cathedral on July 9."

Shareholders Involved in RBS Legal Battle Reach Agreement in Principle with Bank
Shareholders who brought a multimillion-pound High Court action against Royal Bank of Scotland have reached an agreement in principle with the bank.  The update in the high-profile litigation comes after a judge overseeing the action granted a series of adjournments to allow settlement discussions between investors and the bank.  The legal action centres on a rights issue overseen by former boss Fred Goodwin in April 2008 when RBS asked existing shareholders to pump £12 billion into the bank after leading a consortium that spent £49 billion on Dutch lender ABN Amro.  If the litigation went ahead, disgraced former chief executive Mr Goodwin, who was stripped of his knighthood following the bank's near collapse, and a raft of former executives were expected to be questioned as part of a £700 million lawsuit brought against the lender by 9,000 retail investors and 18 institutions in the RBS Shareholder Action Group.  The bank has previously settled compensation claims brought against it by other shareholder groups in connection with the 2008 rights issue.  But the lender, which is still 73% owned by the Government, stressed payments were made without any admission of liability.  An update sent to all claimants by the RBS Shareholders Action Group at the weekend said: "Having carefully considered the merits of the current offer... we have decided to accept the offer of 82p per share on behalf of our membership.  This is a decision which is fully supported by our legal advisers.  We understand that accepting an offer of slightly below the previously advised range of damages, being 92 pence per share and 234 pence per share, may be surprising to some claimants. However, there are a number of practical and legal risks which had to be considered." The update went on: "The longer the case continues, the more cost will be expended in legal fees and other costs, which will result in more deductions from any damages award.  Put simply we would have to significantly 'beat' the current offer of 82p to put the claimants in the same position as they would now be in, further down the line.  The claim is presently being funded by a substantial claimant in the action.  That claimant has decided to accept the offer and they are no longer willing to fund the action.  That means that there is currently no available funding to fund the legal and other costs to take the matter to trial.  If unsuccessful at the liability trial (or any subsequent appeals), there will be a nil recovery, and some or all of the claimants may be pursued for the Bank's costs, which are considerable.  All of the corporate claimants have now indicated that they will accept the 82p offer.  This means that the number of claimants continuing the action would be significantly reduced in size."

SNP General Election Manifesto: What You Need to Know
By Liam Furby
Today we launched our manifesto for the 2017 General Election, setting out our plan to end austerity, strengthen Scotland’s hand in Brexit negotiations and ensure our right to choose our own future.  Here are just some of the ways strong SNP voices will stand up for Scotland Westminster.
An end to austerity
Our responsible plan to end austerity will release £118 billion over the period 2017-18 to 2021-22. This plan will get the deficit back under control, balance the budget and will see debt falling by the end of the Parliament.
Strengthening Scotland’s hand in the Brexit negotiations
By giving the SNP a clear democratic mandate to demand a place for Scotland at the top table we can make the 80,000 jobs that rely on our place in the Single Market a key part of the UK’s Brexit negotiations.
Protecting public services
We’ll demand an end to austerity - allowing the UK government to increase investment in the NHS far beyond their current plans. And we’ll vote to roll-back NHS privatisation in England.
Fighting inequality and poverty
SNP MPs will vote against further cuts to social security. We’ll support the scrapping of the two child cap on tax credits, the Rape Clause and an end to the freeze on increases in benefit rates.
Fair pensions
SNP MPs will vote to protect the Triple Lock on pensions, the mechanism that ensures the State Pension rises by the highest of inflation, earnings or 2.5 per cent. We will also continue to support the WASPI campaign in their fight to secure fairness for women who have been shortchanged on their State Pension.
Tackling low pay
SNP MPs will support moves over the next Parliament to increase the Minimum Wage to the level of the real Living Wage.
Boosting jobs, growth and productivity
To create jobs, we propose a doubling of the Employment Allowance – the National Insurance discount that businesses receive when they increase employment. We’ll also back fair work by supporting the repeal of the Trade Union Act 2016 and a ban on exploitative zero-hours contracts.
Supporting Scotland’s right to make our own decisions
Scotland should have a choice about our future at the end of the Brexit process. A democratic mandate for a referendum was delivered at the Holyrood election last year. The Scottish Parliament has now underlined that mandate.

If the SNP wins a majority of Scottish seats, that would complete a triple lock, further reinforcing the democratic mandate which already exists. Any continued Tory attempts to block Scotland having a choice on our future would be democratically unsustainable.

Could Importance of Fintech to Scotland Grow to Rival North Sea Oil?

The field of financial technology (fintech) is one of the fastest-growing parts of the UK economy, employing more than 61,000 people and generating an estimated £20 billion in revenues each year.  But could the sector in Scotland grow in importance to rival the North Sea oil and gas industry, which became a net drain on public finances for the first time last year amid the slump in crude prices?  It may seem a relatively recent innovation, but the term fintech appears to have been coined in 1972 by Abraham Leon Bettinger, vice-president of Manufacturers Hanover, a New York bank, to describe technology “combining bank expertise with modern management science techniques and the computer”.  Nowadays it encompasses areas such as crowdfunding, digital currencies like bitcoin, e-banking, payment technologies, peer-to-peer lending and “robo” advice – automated investment advice delivered using algorithms.  After London, Scotland boasts the UK’s next two largest international financial hubs in Edinburgh and Glasgow. The sector contributes more than 7 per cent of Scotland’s GDP and employs about 85,000 people, with a further 70,000 working in associated professional services. Combined with the more than 90,000 people employed across the country’s digital technologies arena, the catalyst for growth is clear. However, amid the opportunities offered by fintech, academics at the University of Strathclyde have warned that failing to adopt the latest innovations could lead to the loss of 14,000 jobs and some £635 million in wages. On a brighter note, the university’s Centre for Financial Regulation & Innovation has predicted that the sector has the potential to create nearly 15,000 jobs in Scotland over ten years.  This comes as Oil & Gas UK, the trade body for the offshore energy industry, predicts a “year of stabilisation” in the North Sea, which saw the number of jobs supported by the sector contract from a peak of 450,000 in 2014 to 330,000 last year as companies reacted to the plunging oil price by making severe cost reductions and putting the brakes on “unsustainable” spending.  It says that about two-thirds of firms are now smaller in terms of headcount than they were at the end of 2015, but it appears that “far fewer” are planning to make further cutbacks this year. However, as in the world of finance, Oil & Gas UK says that the march of technological innovation has seen a subset of smaller players emerge across the North Sea supply chain in recent years that are expecting to increase their employee numbers as they seek to grow their share of the market. Deloitte director Kent Mackenzie, who leads the accounting giant’s fintech business in Scotland, says it would be a “very bold question” to ask whether the financial technology sector’s headcount could grow to rival that of the oil and gas industry. He says growth in fintech is being driven by regulatory change, increased competition and consumer demand, “creating a much more open playing field for new companies”, pointing to global trends such as the ability to send money peer-to-peer via social media platforms in China. “Technology is advancing quicker than ever, with artificial intelligence making massive strides in the last year, so against that backdrop we’ll see continued growth in the sector,” Mackenzie adds.

Campaign for Increased Radio Coverage

Thurso and north-west Caithness councillor Karl Rosie said he has kickstarted plans to bring more localised radio coverage to Caithness. He said that media services in Caithness should rise to the level of those in Orkney and Shetland, where local opt-outs see BBC Radio Scotland give way to area specific broadcasting throughout the weekdays.  Citing a recent Ofcom report into the social benefits of community radio, the SNP councillor questioned BBC Radio Scotland Highlands and Islands’ impact in Caithness.  Mr Rosie said: “BBC Scotland Highlands and Islands rarely skims the surface of goings on in Caithness, so I’ll bring plans to our council for a new channel which will open opportunities for residents to take part in the process of improving our area.  My parliamentary colleagues and I are taking this forward.  Local radio brings opportunities in media work experience to our youth, and it benefits the vulnerable among us who are less able to engage with the community but no less deserving of a say. More relevant media coverage could bring much-needed impartial focus on the efforts of local groups, our council, our MP and our MSPs at raising standards across the county.  Any new addition will have to work alongside the great work that Caithness FM already does for our community. I look forward to bouncing ideas off of local business groups and making this a positive venture for the county.”

National Tour of Monarch of the Glen Revealed
A nationwide tour of one of Scotland’s most iconic paintings has been unveiled - months after its future was secured.  The Monarch of the Glen will visit Perth, Paisley, Inverness and Kirkcudbright following a global fundraising drive to keep Sir Edwin Landseer’s masterpiece in the country.  It will spend seven weeks in each location as part of the £175,000 tour, which will run between October and May, and is being bankrolled by the Scottish Government and the Heritage Lottery Fund.  The 1851 painting of a stag set against a remote Highland backdrop was set to come onto the open market for the first time in 100 years after Diageo decided to put it up for sale.  But it was withdrawn from Christie’s in London after the company struck a deal to sell it to the National Galleries of Scotland for less than half its £10 million valuation.  It had been on long-term loan to the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh for the previous 20 years. It has been on display at the Scottish National Gallery in the capital since a £4 million fundraising target was reached in March.  Both Perth and Paisley are vying to be named UK City of Culture in 2021, with a winner due to be announced by the end of this year, while campaigners hope a new art gallery in Kirkcudbright are expected to get a share of a hoard of Viking treasures which were found on Church of Scotland land in the area.  Sir John Leighton, director-general of the National Galleries, said:“We feel very strongly that the national collections belong to everybody. Every time we work with a partner it helps to generate excitement, but also helps local museums and galleries with their efforts to attract more visitors.  There could well be other tours of the Monarch of the Glen in future, but a venue has to have the right security arrangements and the right environmental conditions. It can’t just be hung in any old space." Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “This tour will support people of all ages and backgrounds across Scotland to access and enjoy this iconic painting in their own communities, and will hopefully inspire those who see it to seek out further opportunities to engage in culture and the arts.”

SNP to Put Tender Out for Controversial ‘Teach First’ Scheme

A controversial fast-track route into teaching allowing graduates to bypass universities full time  is to be put out to tender by the Scottish Government.  It is understood the Scottish Government wants to use its own version of Teach First, a social enterprise charity which fast-tracks high-achieving graduates into schools in England and Wales in priority areas and subjects. Under Teach First, graduates receive university input for five weeks before beginning work in primary and secondary schools where they deliver 80 per cent of a teacher’s timetable and start working towards the postgraduate diploma in education over two years. They also receive training from them over the two year course.  Scotland’s schools are suffering from a recruitment crisis with 700 full- and part-time posts unfilled across primary and secondary schools.  The move to such a new teaching model, officially launched by the charity in London in 2003 and which has grown to one of the biggest recruiters of graduates in the UK, has long been resisted by teaching unions in Scotland.  However, last June the SNP government pledged to “develop a new route” for recruiting teachers into priority areas. Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said allowing organisations such as Teach First into schools would be a “betrayal of the high professional standards we operate in Scotland”.  “We strongly oppose any approach which places delivering education cheaply above guaranteeing quality education provision for all Scotland’s young people. The EIS does not support any erosion of that provision nor does it believe that placing unqualified graduates in schools will lead to better or more equal outcomes for those children.  Given the high General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) standards and the level of professionalism of the teaching profession of Scotland, we do not consider organisations such as Teach First should be involved in Scottish education. They have been rebuffed by Scottish Government in the past and any change in that position would be a betrayal of the high professional standards we operate in Scotland.”  A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Developing new routes into teaching and making the training available to people from a whole range of backgrounds is key to attracting new teachers. We have committed £1 million from the Scottish Attainment Fund to develop new ways for people to come into teaching, and will shortly be putting a new initiative out to tender designed to attract high quality graduates in priority areas and subjects.  Initial teacher education is provided by universities and courses are accredited by the GTCS who are responsible for maintaining teaching standards. Any new route into teaching will require a partnership with a university to maintain academic rigour. It is essential all teacher education programmes are of the highest quality. They must deliver appropriate content for literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing across primary and secondary sectors.”